It was not until three years after her mother died in 1990 that DeRonda Elliott opened the suitcase containing the letters her parents exchanged during World War II.
Despite her mother’s urging, she had never been able to bring herself to read them. It was her parents’ private story. Her father, Frank, had been killed on D-Day, June 6, 1944, and afterward her mother seldom spoke of him.
When Elliott, a retired nurse from Durham, N.C., finally examined the correspondence in 1993, she was overwhelmed. The letters told an exquisite story of a romantic young couple whose lives were defined and then crushed by the war.
The letters were so moving that many were later published in American Heritage magazine. President Bill Clinton quoted from one in a speech on the 50th anniversary of D-Day in 1994.
Twenty years later, it seemed fitting to present some of them again as they were printed in American Heritage.
Frank M. Elliott, 23, who had left Georgetown University to join the Army in 1943, wrote from England. His letters are in italic. Pauline “Polly” Elliott, 24, wrote from their home in New Castle, Pa. Their daughter, DeRonda “Dee,” was a toddler.
May 6, 1944
All day I have been fighting the feeling which has been dominating me of late. I keep continually thinking of home and longing for home in the worst way. All your letters of how beautiful my daughter is becoming by the day. The realization that I am missing all these months and years of her formative growth is actually gnawing at my heart. . . .
I love you, Frank
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